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Islington Council orders new inquiry into ex-mayor’s alleged pro-paedophile past

PUBLISHED: 17:48 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:35 16 October 2017

The council is due to approve the new inquiry at Islington Town Hall next Thursday

The council is due to approve the new inquiry at Islington Town Hall next Thursday

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Islington Council will order an independent inquiry into a former mayor’s alleged links to pro-paedophile groups, thanks to a Gazette investigation.

Council leader Richard Watts admitted Islington was 'culpable' for the kids' homes abuse scandal as he apologised to survivors. Picture: Polly HancockCouncil leader Richard Watts admitted Islington was 'culpable' for the kids' homes abuse scandal as he apologised to survivors. Picture: Polly Hancock

The proposed inquiry will explore evidence that the councillor who oversaw social services as Islington’s horrific abuse scandal came to light in the early 1990s had been a member of a pro-paedophile organisation.

The Gazette reported earlier this year on ex-councillor Sandy Marks’ alleged links to a clandestine group called Fallen Angels, which was supportive of paedophilia and lobbied for paedophile rights.

She denies these allegations.

Now a top barrister has said the Gazette’s investigation calls into question the validity of an earlier independent report into child abuse at Islington’s care homes, called the White Report.

James Goudie QC has recommended a new inquiry should be carried out led by a judge or senior barrister.

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, told the Gazette: “It was right we sought independent advice, because I hope it gives people some sort of confidence that we are taking these allegations with the weight they are due.”

The report, by Mr Goudie QC and barrister Holly Stout, says a new investigation is required to examine the nature and extent of Sandy Marks’ involvement with the Fallen Angels.

It also recommends the new inquiry should explore what impact this had, if any, on the way Ms Marks carried out her duties on Islington’s social services committee from 1983 to 1995.

The former councillor was chair of the committee from 1991 to 1995, at the height of allegations that children were being molested in Islington homes and that a child sex ring was operating in the borough.

The report also reveals Ms Marks was one of three councillors interviewed by the White inquiry team in the 1990s.

Based on those interviews, the White inquiry concluded Islington had not known about the abuse allegations relating to its care homes prior to the Evening Standard’s award winning articles of 1992.

But the report says: “Had the inquiry team been in possession of the new information about Sandy Marks set out in the Islington Gazette, it is unlikely that they would have accepted this assertion at face value, and may have wished to question her more carefully.”

Original whistleblower on the care home abuse scandal, Dr Liz Davies, an emeritus reader in child protection at London Metropolitan University, welcomed the “albeit limited investigation”.

The council will agree the inquiry, which is expected to last six weeks and cost £180,000, at a meeting next Thursday, where a formal apology will also be made to people who were molested or abused in the council’s children’s homes in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The apology will say: “Islington Council is extremely sorry for its failure to protect vulnerable children in its care in the past. This is the biggest failing in the council’s history.

“The council today is a very different organisation, and protecting children from harm is our top priority.

“However, we recognise that those who were abused continue to suffer today. This is a heartfelt apology in recognition of the scale of the hurt that was caused and continues to be felt.

“We will work with survivors to improve support to people affected, and with the police to encourage them to pursue any new evidence of abuse.”

But Islington Survivors Network said the apology was “not enough” and demanded an acceptance of full liability by the council and proper compensation.

A spokesman said: “There was a failure of corporate parenting on an industrial scale that we as survivors experienced from those who should have cared for us and kept us safe.”

Survivors’ groups had previously expressed dismay at the choice of Mr Goudie to lead the initial probe. The QC acted for Lambeth Council over its own child abuse scandal, where survivors were unhappy with the payouts deal he brokered.

And Dr Davies said she had been hoping for a QC with a background in criminal law or children’s law. Mr Goudie’s background is public administration.

The council has now announced that two different barristers will lead the new probe.

“James Goudie and Holly Stout were asked to provide their paper,” Cllr Watts told the Gazette. “They are not going to be the people who conduct the investigation. That’s the advice we are accepting – we are going to get someone fresh to conduct the investigation.”

Asked whether it had always been the plan to replace Mr Goudie and Ms Stout, he said: “When we first responded [to the Gazette’s questions] we were trying to work out a structure. [But now] I think it’s imnportant there are distinctions between asking the question and answering it.”

A QC or a retired judge is expected to lead the new investigation.

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TIMELINE

1992-1993: Serious allegations about child care practices in children’s homes in Islington were made by the Evening Standard, including that children in care were working as prostitutes and that social workers feared an organised child sex ring was operating in the borough.

1995: The allegations were investigated by Ian White, a former director of social services for Oxfordshire County Council, at the council’s request. The White Report was published in May 1995 and was critical of the council but found no evidence of organised abuse.

May 2017: The Gazette published a series of articles reporting on its special investigation into Sandy Marks’ alleged past links to a pro-paedophile group, and telling the stories of people who had suffered abuse at Islington’s children’s homes in the 1980s and early 1990s.

June 2017: Islington Council appointed James Goudie QC, assisted by barrister Holly Stout, to carry out a review to decide whether the information presented in the Gazette’s articles could call into question the validity of the White Report.

September 2017: The council publishes a report showing James Goudie QC’s findings and recommending a new independent investigation should be launched.

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